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Field Projects

Field Projects - Willendorf II (Austria)


Willendorf II is an open air site in the Austrian Danube valley, approximately 80km west of Vienna (Austria). It is one site out of a cluster of eight sites Willendorf I, Willendorf I-North, Wilendorf II to VII) along the Danube river. The site is famous for the discovery of the famous Venus figurine, but also for the long sequence (nine archaeological horizons).

Willendorf II was discovered in the 19th century and in 1908 the first excavations by the Natural History Museum (Vienna) were started, during which the entire archaeological sequence was exposed for the first time and the Venus figurine was discovered. Additional Fieldwork was conducted between 1909 and 1927. Later, in 1955 the site was re-excavated by the University of Vienna. Geological fieldwork with a focus on stratigraphy, site formation, and the age of the deposits was conducted in 1981 and 1993 by a joint Belgian-Austrian team. Since 2006 the current team has been working at the site.

The site is characterized by a long loess-paleosol sequence covering roughly the time span of 60 to 25 ka BP. One of the interesting aspects of Willendorf II is the rather high palaeoclimatic resolution of the sequence. Nine archaeological horizons are embedded in this sequence and separated by sterile deposits. The archaeological horizons are covering the Early Upper Palaeolithic, Aurignacian, and Gravettian.

In 2006 a team led by Philip R. Nigst, Bence Viola and Gerhard Trnka started excavating at the site. Our research is focused on the Early Upper Palaeolithic deposits. Our goal is to get a better understanding of the behaviour of the first modern humans in Europe and the climatic conditions under which Neandertals were replaced by modern humans.

The objectives of our work are:

  • Document and assess the formation of the site’s deposits,
  • Date the deposits by using different dating methods (14C, OSL, TL),
  • Improvement and extension (in the lower deposits) of the site’s chronostratigraphic framework,
  • Reconstruct the environment and climate to get a better understanding of the climatic conditions under which modern humans dispersed into Europe,
  • Characterization of human behaviour by increasing the lithic and faunal samples with new high resolution data.

The excavation is funded by The Leakey Foundation, the Department of Human Evolution (Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), and the University of Vienna.


For any further information or questions please contact either:

  • Philip R. Nigst:
  • or

  • Bence Viola: